Want to know how you can go from making the equivalent of $10-12.50 an hour to a healthy $18-22? We’ll provide a list of resources and checklists you can begin utilizing with your current courses or the moment you get assigned a new course. But first we’ll talk about why adjuncts have a hard cap on what they can individually make at each institution and break down the equivalent pay we make if we had a typical 40-hour a week position.
The Law Behind This
It’s no secret that an adjunct is paid very little for each course he/she teaches, with a hard cap of 3-4 courses a semester. First, based on each state’s tenure laws, an instructor who teaches a set number of classes for a set number of subsequent years (or semesters) qualifies for tenure at that institution. If the state says teaching a total of 5 classes a semester for 4 subsequent years total means one is qualified for tenure, then an adjunct who meets that criteria would qualify for tenure no matter his/her qualifications or employment status at that institution–a wholeheartedly messy and confusing scenario if it should happen.
That, however, doesn’t account for the fact that most adjuncts are paid very little in comparison to their full-time components. Cynically, that is likely just the result of institutions taking advantage of the situation.
And while that’s interesting knowledge, what it means is that an adjunct is somewhat abused by most institutions because it’s difficult to enact change. Let’s look at the scenario in terms of a typical 40-hour-work week.
40-Hour Work-Week Equivalent
According to a 2013 NPR story, adjuncts “make up a whopping 75 percent of college instructors, with their average pay between $20,000 and $25,000 annually,” being paid a range of $640-780 a credit hour to teach an average of 3-9 credit hours a semester. The article also quotes a provost who claims his institution compensates adjuncts better than mosts with a maximum of “$7,000 for a given semester.” Using those higher than average numbers and assuming a maximum of $7,000 equates to three classes of 3 credit hours each:
- $7,000 = 9 credit hours
- $2,333 = 1 class
- $778 = 1 credit hour
- $411 (approx.) = per week, based on 17 weeks in a semester
- $538 (w/out taxes) = 1 paycheck, based on 13 pay periods
But, let’s put that into proportion. If you’re teaching one 3-credit hour class, you’re required to be in front of your class 3 hours a week for 16 weeks and an exam period, which equals 49 hours total for that semester. If you’re paid $2333 for that class and stand in front of the class for 49 hours a semester, you are paid $48 an hour.
- 49 hours = 3 hours a week for 16 weeks (plus 1 hour exam period)
- $48 an hour = $2,333 / 49 hours
But that DOES NOT account for pre-semester prep like building a syllabus and weekly calendar, lesson materials prep, making instructional materials, required office hours (some part-timers are required to do half the full time office hour load while some aren’t required office hours at all), nor the biggest time commitment of all for an adjunct English instructor: grading and essay feedback.
So digging deeper, let’s assume you spend one hour prepping for that day’s lesson plan for every one contact hour (i.e. one hour prepping before every M/W/F – 1 hour class period, 1.5 hours before every Tues/Thurs class, 3 hours for every once-a-week night class):
- 49 +49 = 98 hours total teaching and prepping = $24 an hour.
Then, let’s assume you’re only teaching 20 students in that class (most of us know the average is anywhere from 20-35 for an English composition course). And let’s say you’re teaching four formal essays (again, that’s an average between Comp. I and II courses), meaning you correct 80 essays for that class that semester. Assuming you spend no more than 15 minutes on each student’s essays (that’s a fairly conservative estimate, especially if you’re a newbie teacher and still learning your feedback style), you would spend an additional 20 hours each semester grading essays. When you add that to the equation:
- 49 + 49 + 20 = 118 hours total teaching prepping and providing essay grades = $20 an hour.
Let’s add 1 hour a week to grade process work, another hour to read any assigned reading you’ve given students, and another 1 hour replying to student/institutional emails: 118 + 16 + 16 +16 = 166 hours = $14 an hour.
At this point, we’re on-par with making just shy of $30,000 a year; still okay-ish for a person working with an advanced degree and paying off student loans. But prepare yourself: let’s say you spend 10 hours at the beginning of the semester on your syllabus document and another 10 hours on your calendar–and let’s face it, many of us double that, especially if it’s a new class, especially if it’s a new institution and you eat up half of those hours just looking up your new email address and classroom numbers.
That brings us to the bare minimum time commitment of 186 hours total to plan, prep, and grade for a lousy $12.50 — the equivalent of $26,000 a year before taxes.
And just to pile-on, remember that this includes the compensation of $778 per credit hour, which falls squarely at the top of most adjunct pay. That $12.50 falls to a disheartening $10 an hour if we look at the low end, or $20,800 a year.
A HIGHLY CONSERVATIVE minimum of $10 and maximum of $12.50 an hour for someone with an advanced degree to teach others how to write so those others can find themselves jobs that pay them well over $12 an hour?!
We have an array of ways to cut back on prep so you can teach effectively yet prep efficiently.
- One of the best timesavers when it comes to English composition I and II lesson prep is to make your PowerPoints (PPs), assignment sheets, and supplemental handouts/PDF documents as interchangeable as possible. Our PowerPoint Best Practices post goes into much more detail, and we offer an array of MLA Citation and Documentation PowerPoint Packages (available here, here, and here).
- Anecdotally, using coordinated assignment and grading rubrics cut my process assignment grading in half, and I now grade English comp. I and II essays in about 10 minutes each (I tend to average 15 minutes each for longer research essays). We offer a Writing Process Assignments and Rubrics Combo-Package (version for online classes here) with coordinated assignment prompts and grading rubrics; read more in the The Timesaving Power of Rubrics post.
- Plus, we offer assignment sheet that are all coordinated with our MLA Citation and Documentation PowerPoint Packages (available here, here, and here), our Writing Process Assignment and Rubrics Combo-Package, and our Peer Review Package. Meaning, you could download the content one time, customize it in a few clicks, and be ready to teach within a couple hours. You’ll still have to grade, there’s nothing we can do about that.
- Our Syllabus and Calendar Pre-planning Checklist with key things you should do the moment you’re assigned a new course to not only impress your dean/department head but save yourself time recreating the wheel.
- Here’s a post with a checklist of 5 things you can do to maximize your adjunct stipend by spending less time prepping course materials.
The Positive Result
We’re all different, but for me, EnglishAdjunct.com materials shed 8 hours each off of my syllabus and calendar development. It has cut your grading time in half. And it reduces my lesson planning down to 1 hour per week per course:
- 48 teaching + 16 prep time + 13.3 hours grading essays + 4 hours building syllabus and calendar + 24 process work and email = 105.3 hours total = $22 dollars an hour $47,840 a year.
To be fair, the low end of that is $18 = $37,440. And to be fair, because adjuncts are capped at 5 classes an academic year, we’ll never actually be making $37,440 (just an average of $9,600-11,700 per institution), but it’s the equivalent that most fascinating and at the heart of this discussion.
Overall, burn the midnight oil grading because you have to, it’s part of the job; but prep quickly via our resources, so you can outlast the burnout and land the full-time job you (and your future students) deserve.
To help you get a feel for how our course materials can help you get more done in less time, we offer a free download of any individual course material of your choice. Sign up here to take advantage of this opportunity.
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